Ex-Metro lieutenant testifies he helped rig HOA elections

A retired Las Vegas police lieutenant who pleaded guilty in the massive scheme to take over homeowners associations said Friday he was testifying for the government to “right a wrong.”

“I know I was wrong,” Morris Mattingly told a federal jury. “I’m man enough to admit it.”

Mattingly, who once headed security for a construction company owned by Leon Benzer, the scheme’s mastermind, testified he helped rig elections and voted for Benzer’s financial interests as a key member of the Vistana HOA board in two separate stints between 2004 and 2008.

Mattingly is one of 37 people, including Benzer, who pleaded guilty in the scheme, which federal prosecutors allege defrauded as many as 11 HOAs of millions of dollars.

Las Vegas attorney Keith Gregory, one of Benzer’s former attorneys, and three other remaining defendants are standing trial on conspiracy and fraud charges in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge James Mahan.

The other defendants are Benzer’s half-sister Edith Gillespie, who prosecutors say recruited straw buyers; Salvatore Ruvolo, who prosecutors say was a Benzer-controlled HOA board member at Park Avenue and Chateau Nouveau; and David Ball, who Benzer is alleged to have placed on the Chateau Nouveau board.

Mattingly’s testimony came at the end of the second week of testimony. Prosecutors said they expect to wrap up their case by Tuesday, which will give the defense a chance to present witnesses.

Mattingly, who spent more than 20 years on the police force, said he was asked to bring “a bunch” of phony ballots to community management firms for two HOA elections during the scheme. The first time he botched the delivery and fell out of favor with Benzer, eventually losing his security job with Silver Lining Construction and his place to stay at condominium owned by Benzer at another development.

But months later, he said, he was approached by Benzer’s right-hand man, Ralph Priola, and asked to run again for a seat on the Vistana HOA board.

Mattingly told the jury he agreed to do it on the condition he get back the $4,000-a-month salary he was making as the construction company’s security director.

As a result of another fixed election, Mattingly testified, he was elected again and served for several months, receiving $4,000 in cash each month in an envelope from Priola.

Earlier last week, Priola, who also pleaded guilty, spent two days on the witness stand laying out the scheme for prosecutors. Benzer does not have a cooperation agreement with prosecutors. He is on both government and defense witness lists, but is unlikely to be called because his lawyer has said he would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned in court. Benzer is waiting to be sentenced.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter: @JGermanRJ.

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